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Adrian Woolfson is the author of Life Without Genes. He is a Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Fellow in the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Cambridge and Katherine Darwin Research Fellow at Darwin College, Cambridge. He is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books.

Intelligent Personís Guide to Genetics

Adrian Woolfson

In a laboratory in America, a scientist Craig Ventor, having successfully constructed a man-made virus, is now in the process of building the world’s first artificial creature. His work is part of a revolutionary new type of ‘synthetic’ biology, which aims not just to understand how living things work, but to build them from scratch. Elsewhere molecular biologists have tapped into the DNA record to show that dodos were in fact a rare type of pigeon and the extinct quagga, a type of zebra. New research has also told us that although a distinct type of human, Neanderthal man was not our ancestor. Like eyewitness accounts of Victorian chimney sweeps, the DNA record is an imperfect time machine that can help reconstruct our past. It will also shape our future, as although designed ‘naturally’ by thousands of millions of years of evolution, mankind will soon be able to redesign itself. But how will such work be guided? What is needed is a manifesto for life, which acclaimed author Adrian Woolfson delivers in his examination of life and its future possibilities.